Flames begin crucial road trip in Minnesota

Flames prepare for crucial road trip with first stop in Minnesota

By Laurence Heinen, The Canadian Press

CALGARY – Battling for their playoff lives, the Calgary Flames begin a stretch of five straight road games on Friday when they face the Minnesota Wild.

The Flames, who completed their recent five-game homestand with a 2-1-2 record, will also face the Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues and Edmonton Oilers during their final extended road trip of the regular season.

“It seems that we always find a way to elevate our games in situations that we need to and right now we’re all in,” said Calgary coach Bob Hartley. “The chips are all on the table right now. There’s no bluffs. We have to come up with our best performances and it’s fun.”

Calgary (40-27-7) erased deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to Dallas on Wednesday at the Saddledome before eventually losing 4-3 to the Stars in a shootout.

“We got some big points,” said Flames defenceman Kris Russell. “Obviously we would have liked to have added a few, especially (on Wednesday), but we know that going into a road trip like this we’re carrying some momentum, so we’ve got to make sure that we really go after some teams on the road and play strong.”

The Flames still gained a point on Wednesday to retain their grip on third place in the Pacific Division, just one point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings (36-23-14), who face the New York Islanders on the road on Thursday night.

“You can have brain damage worrying about all the different gyrations of who beats who and looking out of town,” said Calgary general manager Brad Treliving, who wants the Flames to concentrate on playing one game at a time starting with Friday’s tough test against the Wild. “We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves. This isn’t a five-game road trip, it’s one game five times, and that’s the way we have to look at it right now.”

After making 27 saves to help Calgary earn a point against Dallas on Wednesday, Karri Ramo will make his fifth straight start in net for the Flames against the Wild.

“We’ve said it all along the way, we have two goalies capable of winning games,” said Hartley, who has also chosen to go with Jonas Hiller in net for extended stretches earlier this season. “Obviously right now we feel that Karri is playing well. He’s giving us a chance to win games, but at the same time we’ve been like this all year and we’ve very comfortable with it. That’s our situation. It’s one game at a time.”

Since acquiring goalie Devan Dubnyk from the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 14 in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, the Wild (42-25-7) have made their way up the standings and into a playoff spot.

Dubnyk has compiled a 24-6-1 record during his time with the Wild, who hold down the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference, three points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets (38-24-12).

“He’s a guy that just never quits,” said Russell, who won gold with Dubnyk as a member of Canada’s team at the 2006 World Junior Hockey Championships in Vancouver. “He’s showed what he can do and what level he can play at, so obviously he’s playing at the top of his game right now. He’s a guy that we’re going to have to challenge and get a lot of pucks to and get a lot of bodies there, because he’s playing so well.”